There are a number of different factors that can affect a horse's chances of winning a big race, especially one like the 2015 Kentucky Derby, set for Saturday, May 2, at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky.
Some of these factors aren't known until race time or at least the day of. Inclement weather and track conditions come to mind.
Others factors are known well in advance of post time. There is the horse's training schedule, the jockey, the diet and overall health. However, one factor gets an extra bit of attention from fans and observers when it comes to the running of a Triple Crown race, and that is the draw for the post positions.
Finding out which gate each horse will take Saturday and the advantages and disadvantages that come with those positions is a major flashpoint in the long buildup to the highly lucrative, highly visible two minutes of heart-pounding racing.
For those looking to follow along live when the posts are drawn, here's the television schedule for the event.
2015 Kentucky Derby Post Draw Schedule
Date: Wednesday, April 29
Time (ET): 5:30-6 p.m.
TV: NBC Sports Network
Live Stream: NBC Sports Live Extra
Here's a rundown of the thoroughbreds likely to take part in this year's edition of the Kentucky Derby, complete with the latest odds, per Odds Shark.
|Ocho Ocho Ocho||40-1|
Note: Odds updated as of April 28.
While the No. 17 post is the only position—out of the first 20, that is—yet to produce a Kentucky Derby winner, it's not the post that draws most of the attention in the pre-race buildup for its dooming prospects.
According to KentuckyDerby.com, it's not as widely used as some of the other posts (in years with smaller fields, of course) and seems to blend in rather anonymously with the other far-flung gates that make galloping to a rose blanket such a difficult task for so many colts and fillies.
The post that has those in horse racing talking ahead of the draw is right on the inside rail: the No. 1 position.
Legendary trainer Bob Baffert, who trains two of this year's derby favorites in American Pharoah and Dortmund, has no love for the No. 1 hole.
"With 20 horses, I wish we just had it back to where you pick your own," Baffert said via The Courier-Journal's Jonathan Lintner, writing for USA Today. "The 1 hole, I don't even talk about it because you know how it can be. To me, I think the post is going to be very important – and the break."
Riding the inside rail can be a tough proposition over the 10 furlongs (1 ¼, miles) of Kentucky Derby track, and horses that struggle to get out in front are in danger of getting pinned inside and unable to make a late break.
In the interest of keeping options open on the race track, trainer Todd Pletcher believes an outside spot might be the sweetest at Churchill Downs.
"Actually, I think you could argue that might be the best place to be because you can kind of see how things are unfolding and drop into a spot where you're happy," he said, via Lintner. "If you're on the inside, you might have to commit to a spot earlier."
In what appears to be an especially deep and talented field for the Kentucky Derby, every possible advantage or edge will be sussed out, considered and accounted for.
American Pharoah, coming off an eight-length victory at the Arkansas Derby on April 11, has the staying power to win from nearly any point on the track but would probably do best close to the No. 5 hole, which has produced nine Derby winners. AP won the Arkansas Derby from the No. 6 post, per KentuckyDerby.com.
And yet it's not hard to find those who favor hulking stablemate Dortmund. Baffert's other star has ground out tougher wins against better competition, and his advocates suggest he might be better equipped to fight through the inevitable traffic created by a 20-horse field.
Or maybe you prefer Carpe Diem, a beautiful natural runner and possibly the best horse Pletcher — often the trainer with the most Derby contenders — has ever brought to Churchill Downs.
The sleek Carpe Diem has run from the No. 3 and No. 5 positions in eight-horse fields this year. As relayed earlier, Pletcher seems to think the outside might be best for this year's Derby, so perhaps he had Carpe Diem in mind when making that statement. Then again, Pletcher is training four horses—Carpe Diem, Materiality, Stanford and Itsaknockout—for this year's Kentucky Derby.
In Dortmund's three wins this year, he's run from the No. 1, No. 3 and No. 5 post positions, via KentuckyDerby.com. While that bodes well for the big colt's ability to handle bumps and jockeying for position inside, it should be noted that none of those races featured a field nearly as big as the one expected for Saturday.
The Santa Anita Derby win on April 4 from the No. 1 position featured a total of just six horses. Still, Dortmund might still be able to bring a win to the Nos. 2-4 posts based on his frame and ability to battle for position. A post on the outside might be detrimental for Dortmund, as it would add more distance with which to carry that big body at Churchill Downs.